A View to a Kill (1985) Behind the scenes This movie was initially teased, in the "James Bond Will Return" tag on Octopussy, as "From a View to a Kill," the name of the original short story. For the actual film, the producers dropped the first word, probably to make it marginally less awkward to drop into random dialogue, which doesn't matter much, since it was purely stealing the title and the story had nothing to do with Fleming's short story anyway. The script was another Maibaum/Wilson product, and Wilson got his first co-credit with Broccoli as producers. As ever, Moore had to be signed again for the film. He was signed, and he was 57 when the film came out -- sixteen years older than Connery had been when he bowed out for good. Moore himself admits now that he was much too old for the role, and was horrified even at the time, when he realized that he was older than his leading lady's mother. It was Moore's final Bond film, bringing his total to seven -- one more than Connery, and still more than any other actor to date. At the time, Moore had been Bond for fully half of the films, and more than half of the series' real-world duration. For the villain, the producers originally went after singer-actors David Bowie and Sting, but couldn't get either. They settled for Christopher Walken, the first ever Oscar-winner to appear in a Bond film. Cast as the main Bond girl was ex-Charlie's Angel Tanya Roberts. Grace Jones was cast as May Day, giving the producers their singer-actor -- but Moore couldn't stand her. The casting did lead to Dolph Lundgren's first-ever film role, though. He was dating Jones at the time, for unexplained reasons, and was on-set when they needed an extra KGB heavy. Lundgren looked the part and stepped in. Duran Duran got the theme song in a step outside the series' usual comfort zone. The song was a big success on the charts, helping lead the series to embrace more popular music in the future. On release, the film was a financial success, but it was the lowest-grossing Bond film since The Man with the Golden Gun, and critical opinion was sour. Like Moore, the public was ready to move on. Plot The film opens with 007 in Russia, recovering a microchip from the body of 003. MI6 finds the microchip to be a copy of one created by government contractor Zorin Industries. To find out why the Soviets have copies of Zorin equipment, Bond investigates Zorin, who is involved in horse racing and breeding. Bond meets with a French private detective, who tells him about suspicions that Zorin is doping his horses, but the detective is killed mid-conversation by an assassin who escapes. Bond follows up by attending an auction at Zorin's stables, where he finds that Zorin gave a woman a check and finds out that Zorin is in fact doping his horses. Zorin figures out that Bond is a spy, and with his henchwoman May Day tries to kill him; Bond lets Zorin think he has succeeded. Bond then goes to San Francisco to check on Zorin's business, where his CIA contact tells him that Zorin is suspected of being an East German experiment, and runs into the KGB also spying on Zorin -- who is actually a KGB asset in the process of going rogue. Bond then runs into Stacey Sutton, the woman Zorin had paid. He follows her and stops an attempt on her life, learning that Zorin is trying to buy out her oil company but she refuses to take his money. They go to city hall to check on Zorin's operations, but he catches them and almost kills them again. Bond and Stacey then go to Zorin's mine outside town, where they discover that he intends to flood the San Andreas and Hayward faults and set off an explosion that will trigger a massive earthquake -- wiping out Silicon Valley and all Zorin's microchip competition. Bond is trapped in the flooded mine, as is May Day, who stops fighting him when she realizes that Zorin left her to die. They work together to defuse the bomb, and when they cannot do so in time, she runs it outside the mine, sacrificing herself to foil Zorin's plan. Zorin is escaping in a blimp and captures Stacey. Bond grabs on to a mooring rope, which, as the blimp flies along, he manages to tangle on the Golden Gate Bridge. Zorin gets out, fights Bond on top of the bridge, and dies. Happy ending! Bond himself Moore is older than dirt and shows no interest in the role. He didn't like Jones and didn't feel any chemistry with Roberts -- which is probably good, given that he's twenty-eight years older than her. Moore never should have come back for this -- he's completely sleepwalking through the movie in a soft-pedaled role. He has a little bit of fun here and there, but mostly it seems that he's just in it because he doesn't know what else to do. Moore doesn't like the movie now, and doesn't appear to have liked it then. He hung on too long, and the result is an ugly exit. How it fits into the series Like Octopussy, it's another example of Moore at his bored, toothless worst. He's checked out of the series mentally already, and after it he finally checks out physically, after obstructing the rise of Dalton for far too long. So in the long term, we can thank the movie for getting Moore out of the role finally. EON stuck with a declining performer in a diminishing-returns formula for too long, and the result was that the crappiness boiled over to the point that we got a sharp and, finally, committed turn in a different direction with the tragically short Dalton era. Moore had the longest run in years and films of any Bond actor, defining the character for a certain generation of fans. They have my sympathies. I shall give a more loving role-obituary to Lois Maxwell, who performed as Miss Moneypenny for the last time in this film. The last actor to be there from the very beginning, she had performed all along, with Connery, Lazenby, and her old friend Moore. When Moore went, Maxwell, even older than Moore at 58, went voluntarily as well, having aged past the point of compatibility with whoever the future Bond would be. The original, definitive, and lovely Moneypenny, she yielded the role with the hope, endorsed by Moore, that she might move up to become the next M. Though we did get a female M a few movies down the line, it was not Maxwell, nor was the character retired from the screen as she hoped. Moneypenny was recast, as Bond was, rather than replaced with a new character such as Smallbone. She largely retired from acting afterward, and died at age eighty in 2007. Review All the while I was watching A View to a Kill, I was mostly reminded of other Bond movies. A government contractor is leaking equipment to the bad guys because he's actually a bad guy himself, plus he lives like a dandy in a French villa, just like Moonraker. The villain is a supposed staunch anti-Communist who's actually a Communist agent, just like For Your Eyes Only. The villain wants to establish a monopoly by destroying his competitors through the use of a big bomb, just like a combination of Live and Let Die and Goldfinger. It's an end of an actor's run where no one appears to really care that much about the product and it just kind of meanders campily and lazily through some stuff until it ends, just like Diamonds Are Forever. But for all that, A View to a Kill doesn't flop as badly as it ought to, for a Moore entry. It's dull – Moore only has three films that can bring me beyond apathy, despite all the camp – it's dumb, and it's weird. But for as dire as its reputation is, it never goes off the rails as badly as Moonraker or Live and Let Die, and unlike Octopussy, it actually has something going for it. That something is Christopher Walken. Walken is awesome. He's weird in exactly the right way for a Bond villain. As Zorin, he sails around the screen with supreme confidence, a sense that he's having fun, and a certain detached sense of superiority, like he's in on a private joke. His Zorin is a genuine psychopath, and he inhabits that crazed killer vibe. I love the way he laughs when he's machine-gunning his own helpless employees down purely for ****s and giggles. It's not your usual maniacal movie madman laugh. He's just kind of chuckling to himself indulgently, like he's watching his daughter in the school play. But he's not acting like a crazy killer the vast majority of the time – he's acting like a genuine psychopath, smug and detached. He's your normal classy tycoon the whole time, seeming personable, but with just the right unsettling edge of a guy sneering inside at how superior he is to everyone else and completely impervious to actual emotion. I'm guessing Walken took the role seriously and did research for it, because he really is great. The sadistic psychopathy also gives Zorin an excuse to want to do most of his dirty work himself rather than leave it to henchmen, which puts Walken on the screen more. All to the film's benefit. I'd never seen AVTAK before now, and I didn't even like the movie. But Zorin's one of my favorite Bond villains now. It's too bad he's trapped in such a lousy movie. The background used to get us psychopath Zorin is rather extraneous – he's a Soviet superman experiment whose psychopathy was a result of his exposure to steroids, who was planted in the West by the KGB under cover as an East German escapee, and became a microchip tycoon with a strong defense-contracting presence and a reputation as an anti-Communist. In the course of the movie, he declares himself independent of his KGB masters, apparently seduced by the potential to profit on his own. All that complex backstory hints at a really interesting character, but it's never really exploited in the film. It's essentially a really complex excuse to have him be a psychopath, as if he needed one, and also General Gogol gets an excuse to show up. The conflict between Zorin and the KGB doesn't come to much of anything. Zorin doesn't appear particularly influenced by any of that background information. The one interesting thing is that they throw in the East German doctor who experimented on him, and Walken's performance hints at a sort of twisted father/son relationship, but really all the doctor is there for is to randomly dope horses now for no particular reason, and to die in the explosion at the end. Now, if instead of falling back, the monocled German mad doctor had actually started hurling dynamite from the doorway of a blimp, like the most awesome old-school video game boss ever, this movie would basically get a free pass, but he didn't throw it, so it doesn't. Zorin isn't the sole thing the movie has going for it, just the main thing. There's a certain sense of freshness to some of the elements – it's a haphazard collection of elements executed without much in the way of passion, but there's just enough sense of energy and newness to some of it that it pops out as a little beyond the usual dreary formula. The horse-racing/breeding element is one such thing. Objectively, it's bad craftsmanship – it gives Bond an excuse he doesn't need to look into Zorin, introduces a horse-doping scheme, and then leads absolutely nowhere. When the fact that Zorin is doping his horses comes up, and a giant dope factory is revealed, you think the logical next step is that Zorin's building some kind of steroid army. Nope. The adrenaline steroid things must be all for the horses, because actually Zorin's plan is completely unrelated to anything to do with this side scheme and nothing learned here has any importance whatsoever. Swell. But the fact of the matter is, giving everyone an excuse to show up at Ascot in morning dress, then have Bond go to Zorin's gorgeous estate and have all this horse business adding flavor to the usual society stuff, it all works to spice up the material and put a new twist on an old element. The most fun is Bond's patter with Sir Godfrey, a knighted MI6 higher-up who poses as Bond's manservant throughout the villa sequence, which gives us a great chance for some social humor. It's a wholly new style of relationship that introduces a natural source of non-exaggerated, character-based comedy. At this point, it's remarkable how much one wholly new element to the series can serve to markedly freshen it up. Other than those positives, the movie is a mess. As narrative, it just kind of incoherently hopscotches around, introducing and discarding concepts as it sees fit. Bond finds a Zorin microchip in Russia, so he suspects Zorin, which leads to him . . . suspecting Zorin of horse doping, and investigating him for that, and then he also sees Zorin give someone a check. So he goes over to San Francisco with the vague idea of doing something, and starts investigating Zorin's operations and runs across some Soviets. The Soviets then disappear from the story while he runs into the check girl again, who it turns out isn't particularly relevant except as eye candy, and then he goes back to checking out Zorin and happens across Zorin's plan entirely by happenstance as it's being put into effect. It creates the illusion of a coherent plot, but really it's just rambling its way through setpieces and hoping you don't notice how irrelevant everything that happens before the climax is. And it's not as if the setpieces are that great. The action is mostly undistinguished. The skiing action feels, at this point, like an obligatory element for a Moore entry, and the switch to snowboarding, complete with crappy Beach Boys cover as a joke track, is just sad. The finale for that pre-credits sequence, Bond entering an apparently gigantic luxury sub disguised as an iceberg, is even sadder. Bond's magical half-car, which breaks neatly into two pieces upon merely being swiped, is one of the dumber gag-action concepts to date, and follows one of the lamest assassinations of all time, designed around a painfully uninteresting stage act Cubby saw once. The horse race thing makes absolutely no sense at any point whatsoever. I'll admit I liked Bond shotgunning guys in midair at Stacey's house. That worked. The escape from the burning elevator is passable, but leads to a hilariously overdramatic BIG FIRE RESCUE scene as he climbs down the ladder, and then to a police pursuit of Bond in a stolen, boringly "out of control" fire engine that ends with a dumb, slapsticky rising-bridge thing. The best thing about it is the fact that Bond, a wanted man, is still driving the fire truck around the next morning. He couldn't be bothered to switch to something a little less conspicuous. The climax is mediocre – the staging is good, but the movie doesn't do much with the Golden Gate fight or with Zorin. The dynamite-hurling monocled mad doctor could have saved it, but didn't. May Day . . . is sort of a mixed element. It seems Grace Jones was just hired to be the weirdest person on planet Earth, and with her deliberately androgynous appearance, her clothes that appear to be from a low-budget sci-fi film, her strange makeup, her crazy hair, her random weird noises she makes sometimes . . . she fits the bill. On the one hand, it's kind of awesome, because you've just given Christopher Walken someone even weirder than he is to play off of. On the other hand, every frame she's in, you just spend the whole time thinking, "WHYYYYYYYYY?" and it's super-distracting without really adding anything other than excessive eightiesness. And it's not like anything done with the character is any better than her design. She has sex with Bond for absolutely no reason whatsoever. She comes around to cooperate with Bond at the very end, which is dumb but whatever . . . and then sacrifices herself inexplicably, which eliminates any slack I was willing to cut the last-minute conversion. Maybe it was how her people return to their home planet. And, really, she is part of the continuing racial problem of the Bond series thus far – the tendency to place black people in the role of freaks. We started off with Quarrel being superstitious and servile, and then graduated to a freak show in which a black person turns into a gorilla, along with the animalistic freak Thumper in DAF. LALD then had a "crazy black native people" sideshow led by Baron Samedi, plus the voodoo freak show in general on San Monique, plus the whole United Black Front approach overall. And now we get May Day as freak show. I don't know that it's deliberate, but it's certainly unfortunate. But, hey, at least she gets to throw a guy out of a blimp and then, in a perfect David Caruso shot, put her sunglasses on. So she's got that going for her. A few other notes: Stacey Sutton is one of the most forgettable Bond girls, and has no chemistry with Bond at all. Bond getting the Order of Lenin is super-ewwwwwww. Nothing about the final Q-watching-Bond-have-sex scene makes sense at all and it is awful. I chuckled heartily at the phrase "DOUBLE EARTHQUAKE!" as well as the frequent invocation of microchips as if they were some kind of magic dust. It was nice for Bond to have a history with the Soviet agent he runs into, but the Soviet element was completely pointless and I still don't know why the head of the KGB was her getaway driver in the middle of the United States. The credits sequence, with all the Duran and then even more Duran, and the crazy blacklight neon bodypaint, is probably the most terrifyingly eighties thing of all time, and needs to be stopped. A View to a Kill is a total mess, plotwise, and doesn't do much to make up for it with setpieces, characters, or anything else. What it does have going for it is the fact that it hovers around low-level disaster rather than devolving into total disastrous camp, it gets a sense of freshness in via the wonderful Jeeves-and-Wooster interplay with Sir Godfrey, and it has a stupendous villain who gets a ton of screen time. In the competitive world of crappy Bond movies, that keeps it a head above the worst of the competition. Rankings From Russia with Love On Her Majesty's Secret Service Dr. No For Your Eyes Only The Spy Who Loved Me Goldfinger Thunderball You Only Live Twice The Man with the Golden Gun A View to a Kill Diamonds Are Forever Octopussy Live and Let Die Moonraker Questions for discussion 1. Who will be the first to tell me that I overrated it? 2. Does Zorin work as a villain, or is the film around him too weak to even show him off? 3. It's the end of the Moore era. Now is a time for reflection. What is your overall assessment of Moore as Bond? Who wants to revisit their rankings of characters, etc.? What is Moore's legacy as Bond? 4. Reflections on Lois Maxwell?